A life across borders: My search for a place to call home

A life across borders: My search for a place to call home
Untangling my roots — Finding a room? Paying the bills? Navigating these questions is hard enough for a generation growing up with sky high rents and no prospect of finding a place to call our own. But for some of us there's a bigger question: will there ever be a place to call home?

Where is home? It’s the persistent anxiety that surrounds my every choice and ambition right now.

We all have the usual starter pack of fears endlessly flashing through our minds… from trying to figure out what career path to follow, searching for an affordable flat in the midst of this godforsaken housing crisis, then trying to sustain a stable and honest relationship, which ultimately leads to the panic about our financial status for when our non-existent, non-scheduled, some-day-maybe child comes along. It’s fucking exhausting, and these thoughts linger for most of us ‘millennials’. Yet a small group of us have an extra card in our deck of fears: the most fundamental and basic question, where is home?

Home can be a place, a language, a culture or simply wherever family or friends are. With billions of culture clashes and race mixtures around, mine may not seem too extreme: a Greek/English father, a German/Austrian mother, born in the Italian part of Switzerland, I attended an International school in Greece, before studying and now working in London. It’s basic, right?

But once you bring in the rich history, the hand gestures, the pastries, the beliefs and the broken pronunciations, it erupts into a flummoxed mess. So where is home today? Where will home be tomorrow? Even though being a child of Europe allows me to live pretty much anywhere I desire today (exorbitant rents and house prices aside) – will I ever find a permanent place to call home?

While the refugee crisis has brought to light the millions of people fleeing their homes and risking their lives in search of safety, I’m reluctant to admit my fear. As with everything, my little problem is but a blip within the constellation of suffering and sorrow taking place across the world. Yet personally this unease of searching for a permanent abode is distressing, as it’s less about a physical house per se – I’m not just looking for bricks and mortar to call my own – but finding a country or a city where I feel that I belong.

Over time, more and more people will feel where I’m coming from: mixed marriages currently stand at one in ten, and will keep rapidly increasing as travel becomes more accessible, people have to travel further in search of work and the cultural resistance towards international and interracial marriages fades away. “Pure-breed” individuals will soon become a rarity, and with that there will be more and more confused hybrids trying to decipher where home truly lies.

I grew up in the suburbs of Athens so, on paper, Greece should be my home. But when the cab driver calls out your accent, your grandfather questions your serious lack of Seferis and Karyotakis knowledge, and your hasapiko dance skills are nonexistent – you admit to locals that you are ‘Swiss’. Then in Switzerland, you don’t know the cantons, you’re not a fan of Milka and you stare blankly back at anyone questioning you in Schwyzerdütsch – now you tell them it’s all due to you being Greek. But then, why do you have a wacky American accent? Or is it Canadian? None of the above mate, it’s just the tonality of a third-culture kid.

By being rootless, we have the ability to scatter parts of ourselves across the globe, with our unique cultural identities weaving tiny details of each heritage together. We can adjust and blend into any situation seamlessly, as we have learnt to adapt, befriend strangers, pick up new dialects and live out of a suitcase. It has expanded our ability to cultivate, opening a vast range of views and identities that become a part of us. Travelling is a necessity as we have the painful and constant urge to reach friends and relatives, switching our thoughts into the local language by the time our passports are stamped.

But we are outsiders. We’re not naturally patriotic, we don’t know who to support in the Olympic Games. Then our “o” vs “ou” spelling is never right and we rarely feel the obligation to vote as every place feels temporary. Which then adds to the next layer of fear, that we are and will never feel content in one place. Is there enough for me here?

Romance is perpetually tested as there is a constant reminder that this place isn’t forever, time will soon be up here, stamping the expiry date loud and clear. No place exudes the feeling that you are the final piece of the puzzle – your silhouette just doesn’t fit right.

Athens, Lugano, Vienna, Hamburg or London – ultimately there is a piece I cherish in every one of these cities. As with all other hybrids having their own set of roots overlapping in their mangled lineage trees. Only we can treasure the family colloquies jumping between numerous languages, all to pinpoint the exact essence of a statement thanks to the richness of each vocabulary. Simple translations just don’t suffice.

Whether it’s walking through the ruins in Kefalonia where my ancestors originated from, having prosciutto e melone on Via Tamporiva, or the nostalgia I feel for my sister’s tree carvings in our garden. The term ‘home‘ is just another necessary item to pack on every trip, folded within the alien sensibilities. For all of us nurturing our collections of stamps and visas for unknown home quests, we mud bloods will in due course find that one place where our potpourri of cultures, dialects, spices and values fall into place. But for now I’ll just keep carrying these pieces with me.

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